the year of Mercy…

“Deserves it! I daresay he does.
Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life.
Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment.
For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


(Original painting of the Divine Mercy, by Eugeniusz Kazimirowski in 1934)

It’s the end of another year as well as the end of another decade…
A time when we grow full of reflection and even introspection.

And if we don’t, well, I think it would behoove us to do so…
it’s good for the soul.

And by the way, I can say that because I’m now on the downhill slope of what is
considered to be US life expectancy, and thus—
older people are supposed to have gleaned from hindsight…
so my hindsight is saying that you need to reflect.

The other day I had offered my hope that the coming year could be a year
for moms and motherhood along with their children and husbands…
as in the fathers of their children…as in families…traditional families
as in those families found within the covenant of God the Father.

And no, this post is not about a debate regarding what constitutes a “family”–
that’s a discussion for another day.

But for now, let’s hear it for moms.
Be they working or stay at home….
because at the end of the day…
the bottom line is that a mom is still a mom…
and that is the single most important job.

And so this notion has gotten me thinking.
Thinking and pondering.

I’ve started a new book…in part because I saw that Bishop Gavin Ashenden had
written the forward to the book.

Oh and just in case you missed it, our favorite across the pond Anglican cleric
is now a new Catholic convert.

The book is The Warning by Christine Watkins

“Authentic accounts of saints and mystics of the Church who have spoken of a day when
we will all see our souls in the light of truth,
and fascinating stories of those who have already experienced it for themselves.”

As I was reading my few pages last night, as that is about all the reading I’m afforded
these days–a page here or there at night, Ms. Watkins mused about death—
something that we will all eventually face.
Whether we are a believer or not, death does not discriminate.

So she posed a question about what happens upon death—our death.
It’s the age-old mystery…death and what happens to us at that defining moment.

For Believers, this is a time of accountability.

As in all sins, all those things done and not done will be set before us.
Even those sins we have confessed and asked forgiveness over will
still, be displayed.

That notion made me swallow hard.

Even though there is and has been forgiveness, our sins will still be on display.
Both known and unknown.
Displayed before us and our Savior, Father and Holy Spirit.

How do you defend such?
How do you explain such?
How do you play off such?

Because isn’t that what we currently do in life? We make excuses.
So why not in death?

But here’s the thing, we won’t be able to nor can we.
The moment will be beyond earthly comprehension
and somehow I think to stand before God, will leave us without defense.

We will be totally exposed, opened like a splayed chicken and utterly vulnerable.

And on that thought, I closed the book, turned off the light and laid there thinking…
and praying.

A key word came to mind…

Mercy.

According to Merriam Webster ‘mercy’ is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown
toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

God has shown His mercy to man—both you and me, by sending His only son…
offering mercy to a corrupt and sinful humankind.
Grace has been given to those who do not deserve Grace but who have been offered it freely
and without attached strings.

And so I would like to see this to be a year for all of us to put mercy atop our list.
To show and to offer mercy to our fellow human beings, despite whether they deserve it or not
because deserving is not the issue.

It will not be easy.
It will demand us to stop and think before quickly casting our hate-filled
angry filled resentment and judgment.

We are such a divided nation, so full of the notion of ‘I am right and you are wrong’
that we allow our national convictions to outweigh the human act of Compassion, Grace and
especially Mercy.
We have become so knee jerk in our reactions that the thought of Mercy never crosses
our minds.

In the turning of the calendar, in the moving into a new year,
may we be mindful of the gift we have each been given…
that being the gift, the ability, to offer to others our compassion, our grace,
and our mercy only because God first offered His Compassion, Grace, and Mercy to us.

In 2015 Pope Francis proclaimed that the year of the Jubilee of Mercy,
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (Latin: Iubilaeum Extraordinarium Misericordiae)
was a Roman Catholic period of prayer held from 8 December 2015,
the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to 20 November 2016,
the Feast of Christ the King.
Like previous jubilees, it was seen by the Church as a period for remission of sins
and universal pardon focusing particularly on God’s forgiveness and mercy.
It was an extraordinary Jubilee because it had not been predetermined long before;
ordinary jubilees are usually celebrated every 25 years.

I think we need to offer such jubilee one more time!

I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus,
but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with,
to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think –
and I say it with humility – that this is the Lord’s most powerful message: mercy.

Pope Francis
Homily on March 17, 2013

the year of being a mother, a dad, a child…a family

The need to get parenting right has become an obsession for many of us.
But we can make some simple changes and bring some fun and sanity into our lives.
We can love being moms again.
We can sit.
We can laugh with our kids.
We can love life and enjoy our wonderful kids.

Dr. Meg Meeker
The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers


(Madonna and Child by Raphel)

2019 seemed to the year of the hashtag did it not?
Or was that the year of the feminists?

The year of a fanatical and even angry #metoo movement—

As in I am woman, hear me roar.

As in let’s demasculinize and neuter all men in the name of revenge.
As in let’s let little boys be girls while we let little girls be boys as
in gender is no longer relevant.
As in let’s say hooray for abortions…for pregnancy is an inconvenience
As in it is my right and my choice by gosh by golly…
As in it’s all about women empowering women…cause power is important is it not?
And so let’s hear it for the rise of militant feminism.

The rallying cry has gone out…
Challenging, even defying, any and all legislation put out there to protect
a fetus in the womb.
Strike down those heartbeat bills…

As we are left wondering who will speak for those who cannot speak…

And so it is my prayer that the coming year of 2020 would be the year of the moms,
motherhood, and the family.
The year of the traditional family.
The year of both moms and dads along with their children.
Bound by the covenant of God.

As the late Pope John Paul II continues to remind us …
“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world
in which we live.

To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children.
Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.

It is the duty of every man to uphold the dignity of every woman.”

The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols
are pleasure, comfort, and independence,
lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.

And thus I will leave this offering of hope with a final offering of wisdom
from Dr. Meg Meeker, a Christian, a Catholic who is married to an Evangelical, a pediatrician,
an author and most importantly– a mother…

If every mother could wrap her mind around her true value as a woman and a mother,
her life would never be the same.
We would wake up every morning excited for the day rather than feeling as though
we’d been hit by a truck during the night.
We would talk differently to our kids, fret less about our husbands’ annoying habits,
and speak with greater tenderness and clarity.
We would find more contentment in our relationships,
let mean remarks roll off our backs,
and leave work feeling more confident in the job we performed.
Each of us would live a life of extraordinary freedom.

Dr. Meg Meeker
from The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers

dining partner

“Every pious desire, every good thought, every charitable work inspired by the love of Jesus,
contributes to the perfection of the whole body of the faithful.
A person who does nothing more than lovingly pray to God for his brethren,
participates in the great work of saving souls.”

Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich


(the Sheriff with that hair of his, borrowing his sister’s old ride / Julie Cook / 2019)

So this is a picture of my dining partner last night.

Well, actually this is a pre-dining picture…
And no, we are not trying to be gender-neutral people by having him ride around in a pink walker…
he’s simply using his sister’s old walker until Santa brings him his very own boy walker at Christmas.

I like the notion of boys being boys and girls being girls…girls use pink, boys use blue…
but that’s another story for another day.

This is actually the dining picture—as in, I was eating while he was sleeping.


(The Sheriff the perfect dining partner / Julie Cook / 2019)

Here is a picture of who my dining partner is 99.9% of the time—
it is a pre-dining picture as well:


(The Mayor enjoys the kitchen cabinets / Julie Cook / 2019)

I would offer you a dining picture of the Mayor but her mother had to take her outside
while we were waiting for our dinner to arrive as her behavior was not dining acceptable…
Not by us, and I’m certain, not by any neighboring tables.

Think lassoing a bull who is hell-bent on independence but is in dire and immediate need of
help in maneuvering silverware, glassware, drinks with straws and ice along with very hot food
all the while refusing to sit in a booster seat or highchair because no one else in the party
is doing so and therefore the bull, I mean Mayor, demands to sit in a chair or booth
like everyone else and thus the dining experience becomes more of a wrestling match
interspersed with a few shrieks of defiance.

Whew!

This all from a child who is long accustomed to dining out and who has been no bother,
that is, up until the last couple of months of which she has become the independent
nearly impossible handful.

We are a family that believes in removing unruly children from the surrounding
environment as it is terribly unfair to those in near proximity seeking to have
a “nice” evening out.

We did so with our son ages ago and we are doing so with his offspring.

Booths in the back of a dark restaurant or closest to the bar with music blaring
loudly has become good for us.
Both distraction and cover for and from our defiant one.

I suppose I should have taken a picture of the empty booth across from me while the
sleeping Sheriff beside me allowed me to eat unincumbered.
Once the Mayor and her mother returned, I took over with the Mayor,
as the Mayor happily decided that the perfectly cooked hand-cut french fries made for
a delightful spoon for the homemade accompanying ketchup.

This way, the Mayor’s mother did get to eat…but then the Sheriff woke,
needed a bottle, so it was still eating with one hand.

Good food and good drink, gobbled down, one-handedly with a bull sitting,
not to be confused with Sitting Bull, in one’s lap is usually the course
these days.

And so you say, stay home…don’t go out…especially with the Mayor.
And that would make sense.
But sometimes the Mayor’s mother needs to be out in the real world and I want
that for her.
So we hope, pray and go forth.

My motto as a young mother was ‘have baby will travel’…that now-grown baby
is keeping the same motto with his own kids.

And I will say that not all outings are disasters or nerve-wracking as we take
the calm behavior with the bad.

Such is life with a 22-month-old.

And so when it’s just the four of us, the Mayor, the Sheriff, their mom and me—
we’ll out we go…someplace good but still casual enough that the noise level is up.
Yet when Da and DaDa are along—things do tend to go smoother and thus nicer restaurants
may be chosen.

So why all this talk about dining out with unruly ones?

Well I was reminded the other day, when I caught a news clip, of the images of the more
liberal lawmakers out there calling for the minions of liberalism to do what they can
to make life miserable when seeing a member of the opposing party out and about.

As in derail and disrupt and make miserable.

I think it was Maxine Waters who I saw loudly announcing at a rally a few months back,
and this is a paraphrased quote of her rally speech…
“If they (they being Republicans, Conservative lawmakers, and the same
like-minded news folks) are out eating at a restaurant or are out in public doing what
folks out in public do…
go up to that table, or wherever it is they are, make them miserable until they
get up and leave.”

And so I was pondering that very notion the other night while I was eating
with my small sleeping partner and the Mayor was out strolling with her mom,
calming down—
that we, as a family, go out of our way to ensure that those around us,
no matter their political leanings or life leanings are not disturbed in any sort of way.
They are paying good money hoping to have a nice evening out amongst themselves,
the last thing they want is a screaming baby or toddler interrupting their cherished time.

It matters not that their life’s choices, thoughts and or beliefs differ from mine…
what matters is that they are people who deserve nothing more nor nothing less than
me and my family.

Maxine Waters could be sitting next to us and if our kids started acting up,
out they’d go.

So maybe that’s the difference.

Maybe that’s the difference that lies at the center of the divide of this nation.

We believe that everyone deserves our courtesy and kindness…matters not who they are
or what they have or don’t have, believe or don’t believe.

And so perhaps it’s the whole ‘doing unto others as we would want done unto us’
mentality that is at the core of all of this…

As we sit at the waning of one year and the soon to be start of a new year…
maybe the idea of both courtesy and kindness could begin to make a healing difference
helping to mend some of this divide of ours…

Stop and think about those others around you…
you would certainly want them to treat you with kindness…
so treat them as you would want to be treated…with courtsey and kindness…no matter who
your are or who they are.

“Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few cross-bearers.
Many desire His consolation, but few His tribulation.
Many will sit down with Him at table, but few will share His fast.
All desire to rejoice with Him, but few will suffer for Him.
Many will follow Him to the breaking of the bread,
but few will drink the bitter cup of His Passion.
Many revere His miracles, but few follow the shame of His cross.
Many love Jesus when all goes well with them, and praise Him when He does them a favor;
but if Jesus conceals Himself and leaves them for a little while,
they fall to complaining or become depressed.
They who love Jesus purely for Himself and not for their own sake bless Him
in all trouble and anguish as well as in time of consolation.
Even if He never sent them consolation, they would still praise Him and give thanks.
Oh how powerful is the pure love of Jesus, when not mixed with self-interest or self-love!”

Thomas à Kempis, p. 88-89
An Excerpt From
Imitation of Christ

Questions and the spirit of God

“We should strive to keep our hearts open to the sufferings and wretchedness
of other people, and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit
of compassion which is truly the spirit of God.”

St. Vincent de Paul


(The Sheriff slumbers / Julie Cook / 2019)


(The Mayor profiling / Julie Cok / 2019)

Firstly…The picture of the Sheriff above is when his parents bring him to me before they
leave for work.
This is a pre-sickness shot.

I will usually put him in my bed and let him wake on his own time since this week he
was free from the dreaded daycare while in recovery mode.

So after visiting the Pediatrician yesterday, it appears that the Sheriff has basically
the croupy crud—
of which she believes he got when he went to the hospital on Friday for surgery.

Don’t you love going to a hospital well, relatively, and coming out like Typhoid Mary?

There’s not much to do but wait it out.
And that’s hard when it comes to babies.

When they are miserable and we, those entrusted with their care and well being,
are helpless to make things all better, we grow anxious,
worried and agitated…and quite miserable ourselves.

Moments, such as feeling helpless while watching the innocent suffer,
most often envoke a bit of ire with our Creator—if not sheer anger.
In other words, we get mad at God.

We get mad over all sorts of things but when it comes to watching our little loved ones suffer,
things can get out of hand frighteningly fast.

I know I felt it when our son was a baby and was sick and had surgery at 3 months.
Just as I know my son and daughter-n-law feel much the same now with the Sheriff…
as well as with the Mayor.

Throw in exhaustion as you sit holding a baby who can’t breathe, and coughs nearly continuously,
upright all night…
and you, my friend, have a toxic breeding ground for damaging negative emotions…
Of which set up a hard barrier between our Heavenly Father and ourselves.

It is at such moments when we lose the blessings He wants to offer because we
have essentially turned our backs.

And so after reading the day’s two quotes, I found them rather appropriate for just those
very moments…the moments when we find ourselves questioning what we don’t know or
understand regarding our God…which mind you can be so very vast.
But it is at such times that we must cling to what we do know.

Questions are always fine…but questions mixed with anger and resentment are spiritually
debilitating.

May we continue, as children, to learn trust while reaching our hand out to a loving Father who
longs to hold that outstretched hand.


(silly faces before we both got sick / Julie Cook / 2019)

“When uncertain about God’s will, it is very important that we tell ourselves:
‘Even if there are aspects of God’s will that escape me, there are always others that
I know for sure and can invest in without any risk, knowing that this investment always pays dividends.’
These certainties include fulfilling the duties of our state in life and practicing the
essential points of every Christian vocation.
There is a defect here that needs to be recognized and avoided: finding ourselves in darkness
about God’s will on an important question…
we spend so much time searching and doubting or getting discouraged,
that we neglect things that are God’s will for us every day, like being faithful to prayer,
maintaining trust in God, loving the people around us here and now.
Lacking answers about the future, we should prepare to receive them by living today to the full.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 55
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

enough people…enough is enough

It is not enough for us to restrain from doing evil,
unless we shall also do good.

St. Jerome


(Kayla Mueller before being kidnapped by ISIS)


(Kayla in ISIS captivity)

In February of 2015, 4 long years ago, I wrote two posts about the abducted American
aid worker Kayla Mueller.

I wrote about her again in 2016 when her ISIS abductors finally killed her.

You can say what you want.

You can say that she was foolish for going into such a volatile area.
You can blame what happened to her on her own choice and actions.
You can blame President Trump…becuase you always blame President Trump.
Because don’t we blame President Trump on all our ills?

But President Trump was not president when Kayla was abducted.

President Trump was not president when ISIS emailed Kayla’s parents demanding a ransom.

President Trump was not president when Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi personally tortured
and raped Kayla over and over again.

Put yourself in the shoes of Kayla’s parents, her brother, her grandparents.

What and how would you feel knowing your daughter was being so utterly abused
and your own government was not there for you and you were helpless to stop the days,
the weeks and the months of her cruel abuse?

How could you live as a loving parent?
How could you sleep at night knowing your daughter was in constant harm?
This was your child…your baby girl and you were helpless to rescue her.

How could you go on day in and day out, knowing your beautiful, loving and selfless
daughter/granddaughter/sister was being tortured and repeatedly raped by a man of
pure evil because she was the American aid worker in the lot?
The other kidnapped workers all noted that it was Kayla who took the brunt of the
torture and rape because she was an American and they were not.

And so now you’re saying that I’m simply basing my words on emotion.
I’m playing on emotions…

And you’re right, I am.

Why?

Because it is emotional.

It is emotional because a young woman who went to help take care of displaced children
was, in turn, kidnapped, tortured, raped and killed…all because she was an American.

The man who personally took pleasure in her mutilation and sexual abuse was,
this past weekend, trapped in a tunnel…hemmed in by American troops and so in turn,
did what any coward would do, he blew himself up rather than being captured.

Only a coward tortures a young girl and uses her for his twisted sexual pleasures.
Only a coward blows himself up.

Hitler blew his brains out.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi blew himself up.

The man who took sadistic pleasure from abusing a young American girl cowardly
blew himself up…just like a man who called for the deaths of countless men, woman, and children
because they were Jews, or Catholics or handicapped, hid in a bunker and blew his brains out.

Evil seems to always self implode when it is cornered.

So Americans should perhaps feel some sense of justification in the news that another
member of evil’s clan is gone.

And yet Congress is up in arms because they didn’t know about the covert military operation.
A ballpark booed a President, chanting “lock him up” …
The Speaker of the House announces that she will call for an impeachment vote this week.

However, in all of this upside-down madness, there are two grieving parents who have thanked
that very same president for finally bringing some sense of justice to the
cruel treatment of their daughter.

No one can bring back their daughter
No one can give back the sense of innocence their daughter once possessed and in turn
lost at the hands of evil.

But at least these two tormented parents now know that someone in the leadership
of their government, our government, remembered their daughter…
someone acknowledged their neverending nightmare and has worked to bring those
responsible to justice.

This is what I wrote back in 2015:
“Kayla had gone to Syria, working with the humanitarian organization Hayata Destek,
Support To Life, in order to help the refugee orphaned children in Syria whose lives
had been displaced and shattered by the ongoing fighting.
Kayla conducted art therapy projects with the kids,
as children can often express themselves in drawings when words cannot be found.
She noted that when the children asked her” where was her world”
–then telling them, they asked why had her people not come to help them…
her response was simply to cry along with and for the children.

This is what I wrote in 2016:

Tuesday night, after having spent much of the day glued to the news and having grieved
along with Kayla’s family, having noted that she was the same age as my son,
having wrestled with the position of the United States in such matters as hostages and war,
I found myself settling in for the evening reading over the Bonhoeffer book that
I have previously mentioned…of my meditating On The Word by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
translated by David McI. Gracie.

The evenings reading was based on Psalm 34:19
A Sermon on the Suffering of the Righteous
It was a meditation that Bonhoeffer had actually written down and mailed to his dear friend
Eberhard Bethge while Bonhoeffer was a prisoner in Tegel Prison near Berlin—the
first of three different prisons before his subsequent execution.
Bonhoeffer had already been held by the Nazi’s for over a year,
his future uncertain. He had just become engaged prior to his arrest,
and with it now being over a year away from those he loved, the confinement was
wearing on his soul.

Once again, as the created and not being the Creator,
there are those events in life that we simply will never truly understand no matter
how hard we try. We can write them off as this or that,
we can grow bitter and cold or simply empty and numb but there are those moments
when we will find ourselves at a loss for words, a loss of understanding.
It will be there, in the midst of the suffering and sorrow, that we will meet God. . .

I want to offer the following excerpt of the meditation as I find its
subject most timely and most enlightening…
(the translator has chosen to mix up the use of the feminine and masculine pronoun)

Psalm 34:19
The righteous person must suffer many things;
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

1 Peter 3:9
Repay not evil with evil or railing with railing,
but rather bless, and know that you are called to this,
so that you should inherit the blessing.

The righteous person suffers in this world in a way that the unrighteous
person does not.
The righteous person suffers because of many things that for others
seem only natural and unavoidable.
The righteous person suffers because of unrighteousness,
because of the senselessness and absurdity of events in the world.
She suffers because of the destruction of the divine order of marriage and the family.
She suffers not only because it means privation for her,
but because she recognizes something ungodly in it.

The world says: that is how it is, always will be, and must be.
The righteous person says: It ought not to be so; it is against God.
This is how one recognizes the righteous person, by her suffering in just this way.
She brings, as it were, the sensorium of God into the world;
hence, she suffers as God suffers in this world.
“But the Lord delivers him.”

God’s deliverance is not to be found in every experience of human suffering.
But in the suffering of the righteous God’s hope is always there,
because he (the righteous person) is suffering with God.
God is always present with him. The righteous person knows that God allows him to suffer so,
in order that he may learn to love God for God’s own sake.
In suffering, the righteous person finds God. That is his deliverance.
Find God in your separation and you will find deliverance!
The answer of the righteous person to the sufferings that the world causes
her is to bless.

That was the answer of God to the world that nailed Christ to the cross: blessing.
God does repay like with like, and neither should the righteous person.
No condemning, no railing, but blessing.

The world would have no hope if this were not so.
The world lives and has its future by means of the blessing of God and of
the righteous person.
Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying:
You belong to God in spite of all. It is in this way that we respond to the world
that causes us such suffering. We do not forsake it, cast it out,
despise or condemn it. Instead, we recall it to God, we give it hope,
we lay our hands upon it and say: God’s blessing come to you;
may God renew you; be blessed, you dear God-created world,
for you belong to your creator and redeemer.
We have received God’s blessing in our happiness and in our suffering.
And whoever has been blessed herself cannot help but pass this blessing on to the next one;
yes, wherever she is, she must be herself a blessing.
The renewal of the world, which seems so impossible,
becomes possible in the blessing of God.
As Jesus ascended to heaven, “he lifted up his hands and blessed” his followers.
We hear him speak to us in this hour: “The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” Amen

So enough!

Enough of this stupidy that is tearing our nation apart.
Enough of the ignorance and stupidity.

The problem is not President Trump.

Our trouble goes much deeper than that of a single man.
No single man can cause so much divisiveness.

329 million people, give or take a few, cannot be toppled by one single man.
So there is something else going on.

But you’re too proud, to selfish to see it any other way.

It’s time you get over yourself.
Your paranoia.
Your false accusations.
Your inflammatory reactionary foolishness.

It’s time we get back to being a unified United States…because if we don’t…
it will indeed be too late.

Stop to think about the grieving families who have lost loved ones to terrorism…
But you can’t because you’re too busy complaining and blaming a man who really
wasn’t on the scene when this craziness began.

May our prayers and support remain with families like the Muellers.
And all those who we have buried because of terrorism.
Terrorism that was ramping up long before President Trump was president.

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/song-for-the-innocents/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/innocence-and-sorrow/

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2016/02/06/onward-christian-soldier/

pierced heart

“As the sun surpasses all the stars in luster,
so the sorrows of Mary surpass all the
tortures of the martyrs.”

St. Basil


(detail of Mary at the deposition of Christ by the Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden circa 1435)


“In this valley of tears, every man is born to weep, and all must suffer,
by enduring the evils that take place every day.
But how much greater would be the misery of life,
if we also knew the future evils that await us!
‘Unfortunate, indeed, would be the situation of someone who knows the future’,
says the pagan Roman philosopher Seneca; ‘he would have to suffer everything by anticipation’.
Our Lord shows us this mercy. He conceals the trials that await us so that,
whatever they may be, we may endure them only once.
But he didn’t show Mary this compassion.
God willed her to be the Queen of Sorrows, and in all things like his Son.
So she always had to see before her eyes, and continually to suffer,
all the torments that awaited her. And these were the sufferings of the passion
and death of her beloved Jesus.
For in the temple, St. Simeon, having received the divine Child in his arms,
foretold to her that her Son would be a sign for all the persecutions and oppositions of men. …
Jesus our King and his most holy mother didn’t refuse,
for love of us, to suffer such cruel pains throughout their lives.
So it’s reasonable that we, at least, should not complain if we have to suffer something.”

St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 222
An Excerpt From
A Year with Mary

I’m still making my way slowly through the book The Divine Plan by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando.
A book based on a seemingly oddly matched friendship and the ‘dramatic end
of the Cold War.’
The book is about the relationship between the Catholic Pope, John Paul II,
and the Protestant American President, Ronald Reagan and of their individual
journies toward that friendship that changed the course of history.

I’ve previously read many books recounting the work of this dynamic duo and the subsequent
dismantling of the USSR…books that recount the seemingly odd match Fate found in
two vastly different world stage players.
But this book’s authors, as do I, believe that this particular match was a match set in
motion long before there was ever an iron curtain,
a relationship that was formed by something much greater than mere Fate.

Hence the title, the Divine Plan…

But today’s post is not so much about that particular Divine match…
that post will come later…
Today’s post, rather, is actually a post about someone else whose life was
Divinely tapped to play a pivotal role in our collective human history.

A post inspired in part by something that I actually read in the book regarding
Pope John Paul II when he was but a young boy growing up in Poland and known
simply as Karol Wojtyla.
It’s what I read which actually lead me to today’s waxing and waning.

When the Pope, or rather young Karol, was 8 years old, his mother died after an
acute urinary tract infection, leaving an impressionable young boy to be raised
by his former military father.

Blessedly the elder Wojtyla was a very devout Christian man and was determined to raise his
young son under the direction of the Chruch.
And so he took a bereft young boy to one of the many shrines to the Madonna in order to pray
and to explain to Karol that the woman he saw in the shrine, that being Mary the mother
of Jesus, was to now be the mother to whom he must turn.

If you’ve ever read anything about Pope John Paul II then you know that he had a very
deep and very real relationship with the Virgin Mary—it is a relationship that reached back
to the void in the heart of an eight-year-old boy who had lost his earthly mother.
It was a relationship that would serve the Pope well throughout his entire life.

So it was this little tale about Mary that got me thinking.

Being raised as a Protestant, we don’t always fully grasp the relationship our Catholic kin
have with Mary.
In fact, we often look at the relationship sideways as if it were some sort of
obsessive oddity.

We scorn them for it.
We ridicule them over it.
And we’ve even accused them of idolatry over it.
And I think we have been unfair.

But this post is not about all of that, not today.

However, this post, on the other hand, is about my thoughts about the mother of Jesus,
the mother of our very own Lord and Savior.

I think history, theology, Christianity often gives Mary a bum rap.
And if it’s not a bum rap, it simply opts to gloss over her.

We tend to put her over in a corner someplace and move on.

And yes that is the role she readily accepted.

We think of her on or around Christmas eve as we recall her wandering the backroads of
a desert night, riding on the back of a donkey as she and her young husband look
for shelter as she is about to give birth…
and then, after Christmas, we don’t think much else about her, ever.

Many mothers accept such a role.
One of obscurity and the role of simply being put in a corner someplace as their child or
children shine in the limelight of whatever direction life should take them.

It’s kind of what mothers do.

And thus I write this post today in part because I have been, as I am currently,
a mother.
And in turn, I kind of get what it means being both mother and grandmother and what
that entails on an earthly level.

I get that it can be a deeply gut-wrenching, emotionally charged roller coaster
ride of life.
I get that it can be both physically, emotionally and spiritually exacting.

Just as it can literally break one’s heart.

Think of those women who have lost their children to illness, accidents, suicides or even
lost to war.

But for Mary, let’s imagine a woman who’s more than just a mother of a son,
but rather a woman who must also look to that son as an extension of her own God.

Who amongst us wouldn’t find that dichotomy utterly impossible to comprehend?

Your son being also your God…

This being the baby you carried for nine months.
Who you delivered through in pain and duress…
The baby who you had to flee town over.
The baby who kings came to visit.

Yet the same baby whose dirty diapers you changed.
Whose spit-up you cleaned up.
Whose hands you popped as they reached for danger…
The toddler whose hand you held when he took his first steps;
The child whose fever you prayed would go away; whose broken bones you willed to heal…
Whose broken heart, you wept over…

And then this same child grew to be an extension of the same God who had come to you
on a lonely night, telling you that He was taxing you with a seemingly impossible task.

Imagine the anguish you felt when, on a family trip, you thought this child of yours was
in the care of relatives…until you realized that no one really knew where he was.

This only child of yours was lost.

It had been three days when you realized he wasn’t with your family.
You had assumed and taken for granted and now he was gone.
How could you have let this happen?
You mentally begin to beat yourself to death.

You now realize he was left behind, alone, in an unforgiving town.
Who had him?
What had become of him?
Was he frightened?
Was he alone?
Was he hungry?
Was he dead?
Was he gone forever?

After frantically retracing your steps, desperately searching both day and night,
calling out his name, you miraculously finally find him.

He is at the Temple.

Your knee jerk reaction is to both cry out while taking him in your arms and then to simultaneously
yank him up by his ear, dragging him off back home all the while fussing as to the
sickening worry he has caused you.

And yet he meets you as if you’ve never met before.
You eerily sense an odd detachment.
He is subdued, calm, even passive…
An old soul now found in what should be a youthful, boisterous child.

Your brain struggles to make sense of what greets your eyes.
His now otherworldliness demeanor is puzzled by your own agitated level of angst.

He matter-of-factly tells you that he’d been in “his Father’s house,
about His father’s business. A simple matter of fact that should not have
you surprised or shocked.
It was as if he felt you should have known this all along.

You let go of him and stare while you try to wrap both your head and heart around what
you’re hearing.
Your anger and fear dissolve into resignation when you painfully recall the words
spoken to you years earlier…
“your heart, like his, will be pierced”…

In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, I was keenly stuck by one particularly
heartwrenching scene.

It was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross through the streets as
Mary ran alongside, pushing through the gathering crowd, watching from a distance
as tears filled her eyes while fear filled her heart.

Mother’s are prewired to feel the need, the urge, the necessity to race in when their
children are hurting.
Mothers desperately try, no matter the age of their children, to take them in their arms…
to caress their fevered brow, to kiss away their salty tears to rock their pain-filled body…

In the movie we see Mary watching as Jesus stumbles under the weight of the
cross–this after being brutally beaten.
She particularly gasps for air…willing her son to breathe in as well.
Her mind races back in time to when, as a young boy, Jesus falls and skins his knees.
He cries as the younger mother Mary, races to pick up her son and soothe his pain.

And just as suddenly, Mary is rudely jolted and catapulted mercilessly back to the current moment,
painfully realizing that she is now helpless to be there for her son.

Her heart is pierced.
As it will be pierced again as the nails are hammered into his flesh and he is hoisted
up in the air…left to die a slow and excruciating death of suffocation
while bones are pulled and dislocated.

And so yes, my thoughts today are on Mary.
A woman who taught us what it is to be a loving mother as well as an obedient woman…
obedient unto the piercing of a heart.

I would dare say that we still have so much to learn from her example.

Obedience seems to have very little in common with such things as abortions,
hashtags and feminism.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3 ESV

when did Moppie became Biya?

Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us,
as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings,
spouses, friends–and hardly ever our own grown children.

Ruth Goode


(the Mayor clownig around / Julie Cook / 2019)

The best-laid plans, right?

Somewhere between having kids and by the time those kids become “grown”…
the notion of having grandchildren, and becoming a grandparent, trickles
ever so sweetly into one’s thoughts.

And maybe even more so if you yourself had had a special relationship with your own grandparents.

Of course, you most certainly need to have some time in between your children leaving the nest
and their actually growing into their own before you can even allow yourself to
entertain the thought of more wee ones in your life!
But the older you get, the more those types of thoughts invade both your mind and heart.

And so all this grandparent talk came racing to the forefront of my thinking recently,
in a rather poignant way, when I was talking with a new acquaintance.
This new friend reminded me of what it means to want to be a grandparent.

This friend was recounting the day doctors had told her she had stage 4 breast cancer,
kidney cancer as well as liver cancer….giving her only 2 weeks to live.

The short-long of this story, of which was about 6 years ago or so,
and as we now see has had a truly a miraculous ending…is not what one might imagine.

When told you only have two weeks to live…I’m not certain what your first thoughts
are suppose to be.

Do you panic?
Do you get mad?
Are you resigned?
Or, in the case of my friend, do you think of what might have been?

When my own mother was told such at the age of 53, her first response was that she
really had wanted to play tennis again.
But that was pretty much my mom…

So what this new friend of mine had told me, that which was her initial thought after hearing such news,
was actually quite telling.

This was at a time in her life when her sons were still relatively young and just entering college.
The thought of them marrying and having their own children was a very distant fantasy.
Yet my friend revealed that when the doctors told her she had but weeks to live,
her first and only thought was…
“and to think, all I’ve ever wanted was to be a grandmother…”

And so yes, there is indeed something truly magical about being a grandparent.

I was fortunate in that I knew both of my grandmothers and one grandfather,
a man who I lost way too soon…when I was but only 7.

To this day, I cherish the memories I forged with each of them…
as they left important imprints on my very being.
They helped to mould me into who I am today.
But perhaps no more so than that of my grandfather as he continues to loom large and lovingly
in the memories of
the 7-year-old little girl who remains in my psyche.

And so one thing we know about grandparents is that grandparents have grandparent names.

My grandparents were known as Mimi, Nany, and Pop.

My dad was later ‘Pops’ to our son as was his brother, my uncle, to his own grandkids.

So when the time came in our own lives, when my husband and myself were to become grandparents,
the formation of names became a hot topic.

Our son wanted us to have more traditional names—names he was familiar with—those of
“grandmother and papa” since “pops” was a bit too sacred for him.

I, on the other hand, wanted to be more unique…
Names with character and staying power.
So I thought “Moppie and Poppie” sounded really cute.

Not too dorky or silly but really grandparent-like.

Our son hated both names but I stuck with my choice…
Despite the little fact that my husband constantly kept falling back on what he had heard his
own father called forever… “papa”

Still, I was determined.
I was going to be Moppie by gosh.

That was until the day I was actually called ‘Biya’ and my husband was called ‘Da’ by the one person
who the names were to be the most pertinent.

BIYA????
What the heck??
I get ‘Da’ as that is connected to what the Mayor calls her dad, DaDa—so it makes sense the older of the
dadas would be Da.
But Biya???

How and where she came up with Biya is beyond my soul.

When they call us on the phone and when she hears my voice—
it is immediately a constant shouting of BIYA, BIYA, BIYA…

My grandmother, Nany, got her name because her young nephew, my dad’s cousin, couldn’t say
‘Aunt Annie’—-so a butchered form came out as ‘nany’—and so Nany stuck.
And thus for about 70 years of her 86 year long life, she was Nany and Nany only to all of
us who knew and loved her.

But that still didn’t answer my wonderment as to how Moppie became Biya…

So when in doubt I did what we all do…I googled.

The word Biya is actually a real word.
Who knew??

It is Arabic in origin.
And it is a current word in both Pakistan and India…Sanskrit actually…
a word that means ‘goodness’, ‘courageous’ or more importantly, ‘gift to God’…

So in her 18-month-old infinite wisdom, The Mayor has deemed that I shall be of goodness and
a gift to God…

I’ll take that name in a heartbeat and I pray that I will be able to live up to this
most precious gift she’s given me.
Because she and her brother, the New Sheriff, are the best gifts my life could have ever received.


(The Maror showing a little love to her Sheriff)


(the Sheriff enjoying his first beach trip)


(the Mayor sporting shades for a day out at the beach)